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Photographer wins $1.2 million from press agencies for photos stolen from Twitter

Agence France Presse (AFP) and its US partner Getty Images have been ordered by a US district court judge to pay $1.2 million (£750,000) in damages to a Haitian photographer for images illegally obtained from Twitter.

Daniel Morel, a photographer formerly with the news agency Associated Press, took the photos in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January, 2010. After uploading them to Twitpic through his Twitter account @PhotoMorel, the photos were downloaded and re-uploaded to Twitter by Lisandro Suaero without crediting them to Morel.

AFP subsequently obtained the images and circulated them widely without any accreditation or payment to Morel.

A seven member jury found Getty Images and AFP unanimously guilty for wilfully infringing Morel's copyright. The judge's ruling to award the damages brings to a close nearly four years of legal battling.

Following the verdict, Morel told AFP: "I feel good. I hope that never happens again to any of us. This is a victory for all artists, for all copyright holders."

Such a ruling could set a precedent for future cases of this type. Jeremy Nicholl, a photographer who covered the case, said that the result proves decisively that creators are favoured in copyright law cases.

"There was some concern that this working class jury wouldn't understand copyright law or the photo business, which is complex," Nicholl told The Register. "In the end they did. They looked over at Morel and saw an ordinary guy who had been ripped off. Then they looked over at the $1,000 per hour lawyers, and saw expensive gangsters."

Image credit: Horia Varlan/ Flickr